CfP POLLEN18: Political Ecologies of Sustainability Certifications

POLLEN18: Political Ecology, the Green Economy, and Alternative Sustainabilities, 20-22 June 2018, Oslo and Akershus University College, Oslo, Norway

Political Ecologies of Sustainability Certifications

Organizers: Matthew Archer (Yale University, School of Forestry and Environmental Studies) and Martin Skrydstrup (University of Copenhagen, Center of African Studies)

The construction and regimentation of sustainability certification programs speaks to central themes in political ecology (Eden 2011). As Freidberg (2017: 1392) has recently observed, however, despite a robust literature on the impact of sustainability standards and certifications on workers’ livelihoods, “we have little idea about how they are enacted inside and between companies further down the supply chain.” This points to a pressing need for scholarship that is attentive to relationships among actors along the entire value chain, rather than just at one end of it.

This panel will investigate the political ecologies of sustainability certifications by focusing on the infrastructures (broadly conceived) of different certification regimes (e.g., FLO, Rainforest Alliance, FSC, etc.), moving past the linearity of commodity chain studies in order to examine and theorize the recursive, contingent, and political nature of “actually-existing” value chains and the diverse certification initiatives within them. We hope to begin uncovering what sustainability certifications mean by tracing their production and circulation as labels affixed to widely-trade commodities (e.g., tea, coffee, diamonds, etc.), but also as emergent commodities in and of themselves. What are the impacts of different certification regimes on processes of production and consumption? Who stands to benefit the most from the implementation and uptake of these standards? How and by whom is certification valued? How do actors distinguish between sustainable and unsustainable products?

We invite paper proposals focused on various aspects of sustainability certification in global value chains. Please send abstracts of ca. 250 words to Matthew Archer ( by December 6. Panelists will be notified by December 10 and will have to register for the conference by December 15.

Works Cited:

Eden, Sally. 2011. “The politics of certification: consumer knowledge, power, and global governance in eco-labeling.” In Global Political Ecology, Richard Peet et al. (eds.). New York: Routledge, pp. 169-184.

Freidberg, Susanne. 2017. “Big Food and Little Data: The Slow Harvest of Corporate Food Supply Chain Sustainability Initiatives.” Annals of the Association of American Geographers 107(6): 1389-1406.

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